Photo courtesy of Sandra Parshall.
Living in the Library
by Cathy Pickens
When I was three years old, my parents did one of the most amazing things – they moved to a house with a library smack at the end of the driveway.
Imagine, your very own library! That's what it felt like. My own library. We could check out as many books as we could carry. (Later, when we walked down the long driveway on our own, having to carry our books back up the hill became a consideration.)
As soon as we finished reading, more books were waiting. Well, with one notable exception: Nancy Drew books weren't considered a suitable use for scarce library funds ("lacking in literary merit" or some such excuse).
That library funding rule has, unfortunately, driven me to a lifelong addiction. I was forced to scout out Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books when my allowance permitted me to feed my habit. As a result, I still buy embarrassing quantities of books. So far, there are no 12-step programs for this addiction, or my husband and I would be involuntarily committed. (Please don’t tell me if you know of such a program!)
The "library ladies," as they were known (forgive me, it was a long time ago), also fed another passion. At the age of 11, when I learned people could grow up and write mysteries, the library supplied me with copies and back issues of Writer’s Digest and The Writer and how-to-write books. Once, when the librarians were purging the collection to make room, they gave me old copies of The Writer’s Handbook and Writer’s Market. Oh, joy! I poured over them.
As a result of all my study, I sent my first short story – my last attempt at science fiction – to Jack and Jill magazine. It was promptly, but very politely, rejected – with a personalized letter from the Editor-in-Chief. That was the last personalized rejection I would get for many years but, thanks to the education the librarians provided for me, I knew that rejection was part of the writer's life and that personal rejections were to be coveted as a sign of progress. I kept writing.
You might not have been lucky enough to live at the library but, if you are a reader, I bet a librarian somewhere has given you unexpected gifts. Make it a point some day soon to thank a librarian for letting you check out all the books you can carry.
And librarians: Who knows what that strange little round-headed kid who comes in all the time might grow up to be? A reader, for sure. Maybe a writer. Or any of a world of wonderful things.
So, to all librarians, from one of those kids: Thanks!
Cathy Pickens, the national president of Sisters in Crime, is the author of the award-winning Southern Fried mystery series featuring South Carolina attorney Avery Andrews. The most recent title in the series is "Can’t Never Tell."